Getting the Pucker Back

I used to have quite the pucker. My lips were strong, my lung capacity ample. In my day, I could blast with the best of them. Playing the trumpet was a love, something I did well, and I had a talent. Some said I had music in my veins, a gift I inherited from a mother who truly played music as if she were born to do so. I know that when I turned ten, the band director at my school made sure I signed up to learn an instrument, his hope being that I had just a little bit of the musical talent my mother possessed.

The instrument I chose to play was based on the availability of an instrument to play. My dad had played cornet when he was in school, still had his old cornet. So I decided that would be my instrument. I was already familiar with music, having taken piano lessons from my mother since I was seven years old, so I had a head start on learning the notes. Trumpet/Cornet is a B flat instrument, so the transition from piano to trumpet was fairly simple.

This should be the place where I wax poetically about how I was a natural, a prodigy. Unfortunately, I struggled at first. However, I really wanted to play, and after a few months that started to show. Despite the poor condition of my dad’s old cornet, I had developed a good sound. Mr. Tony Mazzara, the band teacher and director of all the bands at the small school I attended in Rochester, Illinois, called my mother one day and chided her for being a ‘cheap Charlie’. Buy the boy a decent instrument, he demanded, it looks like the kid has some talent.

Even at my young age, I appreciated the significance of my parents’ response to his challenge. Mom and Dad didn’t have much money to throw around, but they took me to the music store in Springfield, shelled out some coin for a very nice nickel plated Conn Connstellation, the instrument I still possess. It’s a great horn, and I immediately started playing much better, so much so that the band director asked me to play in the junior high band as a sixth grade student — playing with the first part trumpet section. My parents were very proud, happy that their investment had been a good one.

Rochester’s music program was an active one, top notch, with concert bands that took top honors at the state level. I was honored to become first chair shortly into my freshman year of high, something the senior whose chair I took was not happy about. One of the fights I had in high school (yes, there were a few of those) was with that former first chair senior. He pushed me up against a locker in anger after the promotion — right in front of a teacher. So, that fight was a short one, although the guy didn’t quit trying to pick the fight until he got his wish. It was a short fight. I don’t honestly remember who ‘won’.

In high school, I did double duty at basketball games, playing on the team and in the pep band before the games. I got a scholarship to band camp one summer, enjoyed playing the flugel horn for an arrangement of Paul McCartney’s ‘Uncle Albert’. I still love that song! My sophomore year, I auditioned for the Illinois state honors band and was first chair trumpet for the state honors concert. Our concert bands continued to receive top honors at the district and state competitions. The jazz band director at the local community college invited me to play with the community college band, so I got a little taste of playing jazz, played with the community college jazz band my first year of college. I enjoyed it, but I have never enjoyed playing jazz solos, and still write out solos instead of playing improv.

One of the stories I like to tell my kids is a band story. Each year, Rochester’s concert band travelled to Northwestern University in Chicago to participate in the university’s band day event. Rochester didn’t have a football team then (which has changed — as Rochester now has a very successful football program). Mr. Mazzara liked to take us to Northwestern’s band day as a way to give us a taste of playing on a football field, since we didn’t have a football team and thusly did not have a marching band. The highlight of Northwestern’s band day was filling the entire football field from end zone to end zone with high school bands from throughout Illinois. John Painter, the university band director, directed the bands from a scaffold in the middle of the football field. My senior year, Rochester’s band was positioned somewhere around the 20 yard line. During rehearsal, Painter stopped rehearsal, pointed at our band and proclaimed that all he could hear was our trumpet section. We were too loud! Despite his command that we tone it down, we instead played louder.

Never tell a trumpet player they are too loud. It only encourages us to turn it up. I have parted the hair of many a floutist who sat in front of me in band — proudly and with a smirk. Floutists hate trumpet players, as they usually are seated in front of the trumpet section.

It has been roughly five years since the last time I have played, except for the occasional few toots. The church I attended for years had a jazz orchestra, with very talented musicians who humbled me. During those years, I learned to enjoy playing the lower parts, although I had plenty of opportunities to shine. My church also liked to use horns as part of the worship band, some of the most fun I have had playing the trumpet. One included backing up a gospel singer, a large woman who loved to vamp, a challenge to the horn section who kept have to play the same riffs over and over as she kept singing.

Right now, I am in the process of getting my chops back in shape. Since I am getting involved with a new church (new to me), I am trying to find a way to get involved in the church. Soon, I hope to get a chance to play in some form at the church, whether it is as a part of the worship band or simply playing as part of brass ensemble during the holidays. I have volunteered, but I may have to be the one who gets the ball rolling. Remember the whole divorce debacle from a few months back? I kind of get the idea that church leadership is a little hesitant to let me get involved. I have prayed about getting involved, feel like God is good with me. Things will be alright. In the meantime, I am getting ready to play!

Fourth

July 4th is here! While I am a bit concerned by where my country is at right now, it’s still the USA and it’s my home. I’m a Romans 13 type of guy, and I also take Exodus 22:28 with all seriousness —

Do not blaspheme God[f] or curse the ruler of your people

What? Did God say not to curse the ruler of your people? God DID say that. What that says to me is that I don’t invoke Brandon, no matter if I agree or not with the president or governor or anyone in authority. God does not say I have to agree, but I have to respect any leader, even honor them.

Time off almost always means opportunities to ride my bike. This holiday was a rare four day weekend, with both Friday and today as paid time off. My company is saying thank you to it’s employees, grateful for another fantastic business year and all the hard work that has gone into it. So, needless to say, I have taken advantage of the time away from work to ride, three out of the last four days, and it’s been great. There haven’t been any epic rides, just two hour bashes on the singletrack at my favorite trail system. Even though it’s July, I am only just now beginning to get my riding legs, and am feeling good on the bike. Today, even though I hit everything hard, I felt at the end of the ride that I could have (and wanted to) ride a whole lot more. I wanted to get home, though, get some things done around the house, give my third child a bath (including a toothbrush scrub), clean up the cars, spend some time with Lisa. Tonight, we are going over to friends’ for snacks and time with them, then walk over to the city fireworks display with them. It’s going to be a good time, if the weather cooperates. It’s overcast right now and threatening rain. As I write, a downpour just started. Guess maybe it will be dominoes with friends, rather than fireworks. All is good, as one might be able to deduce from the pictures below, the therapy of the woods was fantastic this morning. It’s got me itching for more (literally — I picked up something on my right calf that’s given me a rash). And I get time with my wife and friends, maybe even my son, who called a few minutes ago and might come over to be with us tonight, as well.

Three Months In

Three months in. Still newlyweds, something that seems surreal, strange to be saying at my age (I’m 61 now, Lisa just turned 63). People look at us and give us huge smiles if we mention we are newlyweds. Almost all want to know how we met, which is a sweet story in a way. I love to tell people that we were next door neighbors, watching each other, wondering about that person next door and curious about them. Lisa’s older brother, who also performed our wedding ceremony, told us that it’s not often that two people find someone so right for the other at our age. I am not sure that’s true, but it sure seems like God brought us together, allowed us to find each other at the right time.

We communicate well, learned early on how to live in a small space and share it, give each other space in that space when it’s needed — you don’t know how much of a gift that can be unless you have been in a relationship where that didn’t happen. Trust is integral to us both, a refreshing freedom, a magnetic bond that brings us even closer. Lisa was last married 19 years ago, I a mere 5 years ago, but we both have an independence that wouldn’t work if it was not for trust. Since cycling is such a large part of my existence, it’s important to me that the woman I am with trusts me enough, values me enough, to accept that part of me. Lisa encourages me to ride, sees how riding benefits me physically and emotionally, even checks the weather report to see which days are going to be the best opportunities for me to ride (I mountain bike — rain is not dirt’s best friend). I in turn, like it when she goes for walks with her friends, spends time with them, takes time to be with her son. We respect each other. She likes that I have friends, likes it when I have the occasional beer with them, and I am just as happy when she goes out with her friends.

Lisa likes to do things. So do I. This summer already has been a whirlwind of outdoor concerts, weekend trips, time at the pool, dominoes with friends, karaoke, and many nights just hanging out on the couch watching TV together. Our patio area is looking awesome, with flowers and plants, an awesome retreat (I am writing outside right now). We have worked hard together to make the space great. Many evenings include a quiet walk around our condo community, hand in hand. Last night we went out for dinner, had a little wine, saw the Elvis movie (disappointed). This time of year, we venture out and have a little wine out on the lawn at the local winery where we are members.

There are hiccups. Three months is the point where couples start seeing the reality of each other, we hear, and well, it’s the point where the crazy comes out if it exists. No crazy yet. What we do see is that this marriage is a very good thing. We are loving it. It’s only getting better. Maybe it took this long for us to get it right, to be ready for the rigors of a close relationship, to have the time to work on a relationship. All I know is that I like where I am at, where we are at.

Time to retreat to my man cave, something I will write about when I can. It’s the garage, with a 50″ TV, a subscription to MLBTV, and my bikes. She loves giving that space to me, likes what I have done with it. Let’s just say that I am meticulous, so she’s benefitting from that. The garage was a mess before I moved in.

Have a happy fourth, y’all!

Whirlywind

Tags

, , ,

WHEW!

I made it. Life since December has been non-stop, mostly related to preparing my condo for selling, as well as wedding plans. Thankfully, Lisa relished the whole wedding planning process, so my job for the wedding was mostly to nod in agreement. I do that well. There were tasks I had to do, but mostly I just had to show up. The caterer was my big task, which I accomplished. Let’s face it, food really isn’t a challenge. Our guest list was small, intentionally, only 53 people, so ordering food was easy.

The condo prep was a lot of work, constant. After weeks of painting, replacing a floor, rehanging doors and doing some general cleaning, I was ready to hang it up. When the last baseboard was replaced, I vowed not to touch another hammer or paint brush for the rest of my life. Ha! Like that is going to happen. The kitchen floor, in particular, looked very nice. Lisa saw that and immediately the wheels started turning in her head with ideas for projects to do around our house (condo). At the beginning of February, my condo was ready to sell. The listing went active at 4 PM on a Sunday. Within minutes there were multiple requests for showings the next day. I worked from Lisa’s condo (next door.. short commute) Monday morning, to accommodate the showings, and was rewarded with two offers that morning. Another followed early that afternoon. Two were nearly $8000 higher than the asking price, and one of those offers was an as is offer. It was nice to be in a seller’s market!

I’m not sure how many showings there were the first day. Let’s just say there were a lot of showings, so many that I had to start turning down requests, allowed one more showing Tuesday morning before I accepted one of the offers. My realtor vetted the credit of each of the buyers, said all three had solid loans. After some discussion, I decided to accept the offer from a young man who is an elementary school band director. My daughter teaches band, so I figured he would be an admirable choice. A guy who teaches kids instrumental music all day likely needs a quiet place to live.

My place sold and appraised at a price $17000 higher than any other condo like it in our condo association prior. In a few short years, the value of my home increased nearly $60000. That may not sound like that much in today’s real estate market, but my condo was a small 1000 sq ft, two bedroom one bath unit with an attached garage. The equity was enough to make me feel stress free financially for the first time in what seems like an eternity.

I closed on the condo a little over two weeks ago. The four week period between the sale and the closing went quickly. Thanks to FB Marketplace, nearly all my furniture was gone quickly. Since I was moving into Lisa’s condo, all but a few items had to be sold or given away. It’s pretty amazing what people will buy if it is cheap. The worst items seemed to garner the most interest — a forty year old wobbly dresser and nightstand ($5 for the pair) sold in 10 minutes, with countless inquiries. I sold the dressers and nightstand in the master bedroom to a woman who fixes up old furniture and resells. She even helped me move it from my second floor unit to her van, came back to pick up the rest. When she saw some of the other stuff I had, she offered to buy some more items. I hated to part with one of those items, an outdoor bench that I had out on my balcony, weathered nicely, a home made project my dad made from an old headboard and footboard. I was touched by the immigrant couple who showed up in an old Toyota Corolla to buy the tattered full mattress and box spring I had. They drove an hour to pick it up, but it was obvious they were grateful for it. Neither spoke much english, but when I asked them if the bed was for their children they said no, it was for them to sleep on. They struggled to load the frame, comforter, sheets inside the car, then bravely strapped the mattress and box spring to the top of their little car. Somehow they managed. I felt a little guilty for taking $10 from them, tried to decline the cash, but they insisted I take it.

I moved some things into Lisa’s condo, but that was difficult, as her son still had things there. I planned to move the remainder of my things in a week before the closing, but when I went to her place to move, I found out that her son’s girlfriend had kicked him out the day before, so he had moved back in to Lisa’s. After the smoke cleared, and I had managed to hold my temper, we talked it out. She asked him to move his stuff out, which he did immediately. There will still things left, and he was still living with her, but I was able to move most of my stuff over. By the day before the closing, I had moved my stuff to OUR place.

For two weeks, I needed a place to live. I try to honor God and understand why it’s important to wait to live together until marriage. A couple we know from church, who also were studying with us to help prepare for marriage, offered to let me live in their garage loft until the wedding. The loft is his office, so it was a sacrifice for him to let me live there and work from there for two weeks. I am very grateful. Not only was it kind of them, but I really enjoyed getting to know Jim and Cindy better during the time I stayed with them. The loft doesn’t have a bathroom, so I saw them quite a bit, as they left their back door open for me so I could use their basement bathroom. I used that most of the time, but during the night there was no way I was going to stumble through the dark and into their house to use the bathroom. I got used to peeing in a cup!

The wedding was this past Saturday. I will save the details for another blog. We both remarked that night, after we were recuperating from the day, that the day was even better than anticipated. Lisa really plans well and it showed! Such a wonderful day. I am married now. As you can tell from the picture, she is gorgeous, and my jaw dropped when I say her appear in her short wedding dress. I don’t like most of the pictures of myself, as the winter was not kind to my physique! I will lose quite a bit of weight as the cycling season starts, thank goodness.

Life is good, better than I imagined it would be five years ago. A lot has changed. I am glad to be able to trust in God, because he has truly blessed me.

Fresh

They look good, much better than I expected. Ever since I bought my condo some four years ago, my little galley kitchen has been the room I have most wanted to update. The cabinets were solid, but very dated, dark wood laminate circa the late 1970’s. They are the original cabinets, as is the worn vinyl sheet flooring, dark stained baseboard and pantry door. The only updates to the kitchen since my home was built are the stainless steel faced appliances, possibly the countertops. I have fretted over starting the project of updating for quite a while, with full knowledge that an update will be a larger job than it looks to be, especially for an amateur such as yours truly. So, since I plan on putting my condo up for sale next month, I decided to use the extra time during this past holiday to begin the task of spiffing up my kitchen. The first project was painting the cabinets — which I finished last night after a week and a half of toil.

I didn’t get a before picture. Trust me, the cabinets look quite a bit different.

Tomorrow, I am going to pick up the flooring, likely a dark gray vinyl plank. I used vinyl plank last year when I updated the utility room. Vinyl plank was easy to install and it looks good, plus it is economical and cleans up nicely. For a second floor condo, vinyl is better than wood laminate flooring as it is also a little more quiet. I probably will install the flooring last, so I don’t have to worry about making a mess when I paint the walls. The walls will probably be a bright white, with the hope that it will make the gray cabinets and dark floor stand out a little more. I may add dark gray paint on the portion of the walls above each set of cabinets. When I am finished with the project, I will change the curtains to contrast the grays in the room. The kitchen table and the microwave will be removed.

There really isn’t much else that needs to be done to my place, besides painting trim, baseboards and doors. One wall in the living room will need a fresh coat of paint (Sherwin Williams french gray, very nice looking), since I had to do some patching to correct a surface raceway experiment gone bad. There is also a TV mounted on that wall, so that will need to be removed and the holes patched.

Towards the end of next month, Lord willing, I will be putting my place on the market. The condos here sell very quickly and have been selling at a price that should be about $50,000 more than what I paid four years ago, about $60-70,000 in equity. That money should help pay off debt, give me a fresh start financially, a sorely needed shot in the arm after the devastation the divorce has had on my money situation. My fiance lives in the building next door, in a condo a smidgeon larger than mine, and we will be sharing living expenses — something I have never experienced. 2022 holds a lot of hope for me, a ton of positive!

By the way, I am very happy with the paint I used on the cabinets. Paint was a concern for me, as I have heard and read horror stories about how paint lasts on laminate. The paint I used has passed the scratch test, went on very well. It was true to it’s name — Pittsburg Fast Dry. Even when I was painting the cabinet faces in my garage, in fairly cold temperatures, it dried quickly. Inside, the paint was dry within 15-30 minutes after application. The paint also leveled very well and the finish is very even. The price didn’t knock me out, either. A gallon of semi gloss cost $45 on sale. Surprisingly, the cabinets needed a full gallon, mostly because I had to sand the edges down and repaint the faces due to a mistake I made. The mistake was a head slapper. I laid the faces down on a canvas tarp when I painted the ends, not thinking about the paint sticking to the tarp underneath when it dried. Oops.

The next month should be fun. I am determined to stay motivated, get the job done!

Return

My boy plowed through the front door of my condo this morning, fairly early by most standards. He finished up school yesterday, took his last final, and drove up from Champaign. I was on the phone with a customer as he tromped past, tossed his backpack on the living room floor while laying his guitar case in front of the fireplace, proceeded to flop on my old leather couch. He loves that couch and rightfully so. It’s soft and fluffy, perfect for naps. I finished my call, said hello, welcomed him home. Nate grunted a hello, said he had a good trip, then drifted off into a nap, his light snoring almost a distraction while I worked. Shortly thereafter, he shuffled into the bathroom for a quick shower and into his bedroom for more sleep. I didn’t see him again until around 5 this evening.

I guess school wore him out. Although I think I remember a little what it was like to be 22. I slept quite a bit then.

This is probably my last time living with my son. He is officially done with school, interviewing for jobs, trying to decide where he is going to live. Soon, I won’t have a place for him to stay, since I am selling my condo this February-March. When Lisa and I marry at the end of March, I am moving into her condo, a short move since she lives in the building next door. I spent the last two Saturdays cleaning out her garage, hoping to clear enough space for the few things I am going to bring with me. Most importantly, there needs to be enough room in her garage for my bikes.

Life’s chapter is turning yet another page. Four years ago, the chapter that began was a dramatic one, a dramatic change. Today’s chapter has both children on their own — one a newlywed teaching music at a school overseas, the other beginning his own story. And I am starting a new story, hopeful and eager to see what is in store.

Sometimes I worry what my children think about their father, now that the dust has settled from the divorce. It’s not easy for them to see me moving on, I am sure. Neither is expressing any anger, both seem to accept it. Tonight, Nate asked me where the wedding ceremony is going to be, was interested as I told him about the little old white church out in the country we are using for the ceremony. I want to ask him to stand up with me for the ceremony, but am a little afraid that will be too much for him. If I am going to ask him, it probably should be this week, since he leaves this Sunday to visit his sister and will be gone for the holidays.

So, my quiet little nest is invaded for the next few days.

Patience Required

What a strange yet exciting time I am in right now!

Marriage for the second time in March. I am excited. She is wonderful and just what I need. There are so many ways we are a perfect fit. My life is going to change in many positive ways, including financially, as some of my debt goes away when I sell my condo, and I no longer have a mortgage payment! Divorced life sucks when you are the one who has to pay the ex. In a way, I get to start over in more ways than one.

With the new relationship comes challenges, as I wrote about recently. The church we attend doesn’t like that I am divorced, especially since my divorce wasn’t due to adultery. In their eyes, I didn’t have a scriptural reason for divorce, even after a face to face meeting I had with a church staff counselor and a church elder. It’s disappointing to me, but not surprising. After the meeting I had with the counselor and elder, I received an email from the counselor saying that he recommended reconciliation with my ex. Anything else would be considered adultery. His reaction was no surprise to me. It’s disappointing, but I will have to deal with it. Thankfully, no disciplinary action is being taken.

I am a member of the church now. Membership is called being a ‘mission partner’. I am being asked how I want to serve, something I like. I met last Sunday with the guy who is in charge of music, who responded to my interest in playing my trumpet for church worship or other needs. At my previous church, I played in the swing orchestra and also in the worship band. We shall see how that pans out. I am still a decent horn player. Last night, I was a server for the annual women’s Christmas dinner, a big event with several hundred women. Lisa hosted a table, which she decorated magnificently. I was a waiter. Lisa loved that, especially since I added a little touch by wearing a fake moustache. It was funny. I was only able to persuade one other guy to wear a fake moustache and it was a hit. We had fun with it. The evening was a little strange, however, as many of the men who served were also church elders. I get the idea that they are a little uncomfortable with me, largely because they know of my divorce background. It’s going to take a while with them. I am trying to be patient.

Squeezing

I had just walked through the door of my home, tired. It had been a long evening, one of many this week. It’s December, after all, one of the busiest months of the year. My phone was ringing.

“Hey Dad, I accidentally order Chipotle to be delivered to your house. I cancelled it but they delivered it anyway. Check your front door.”

Sure enough, Chipotle, at my front door. I opened the bag and immediately wondered what my son is living on. When he is home with me during the summer, I try to emphasize how important it is to conserve money by planning meals, grocery shopping, not eating out all of the time. I am pretty sure he ignores that, judging by the steak bowl with guac and queso that he ordered for himself. It’s difficult to keep myself from comparing. When I was in college, it was a treat to be able to eat dinner at the local pizza buffet once a month with my friends. The rest of the time was the boring food served in the school cafeteria. I just plain did not have the money to spend.

He does. I suppose that says a lot about the savvy my son has. These days, he rarely asks for money. He did ask for money recently. When I said no, mainly because I simply don’t have money to give to him, he shrugged it off, said he would CASH IN ONE OF HIS INVESTMENTS. Say what?

My son followed up his phone calls with a text. An announcement. “Hey Dad, I am dating. Can you tell grandpa to keep from commenting on my FB?”. Sure enough, he had just posted a few pictures on his FB page of a recent date. The fact that Nate even mentioned it to me is a rare accomplishment. My boy doesn’t usually say anything to me. He is as private as private can be. After a few texts, I even managed to get the first name of his date. Her name is Jess, a tall girl who fits well next to my 6’4″ son. A friend who works for a florist had donated a dozen roses to him and another friend for dates they had set up for them. The pictures looked a bit odd to me. Who gives a dozen roses to their date on a first date? It seems to have worked. She looks happy next to my blushing son.

I am glad he communicated with me. My dad did notice the pictures that Nate posted on FB, sent me a text to ask about them and commented on how slim my son was looking. I replied back, let Dad know that Nate was hoping no one from our generation would comment on his post. Dad behaved, only liked the picture.

Scotty Beam Me To Work

6 AM, the hues of the morning sun beginning to peek over the horizon as I drove my little Subaru east along the on ramp to I-88. Until I reach I-88, the little stretch through town is quiet and peaceful, with very little traffic besides myself. It is only until the merge onto the tollway that the madness begins.

“Here we go again!” I sigh as I settle in behind a slow moving bakery delivery truck, hemmed in by an anxious commuter in a large SUV who is travelling at the same rate of speed as the truck I am following, a train of dazed drivers in the vehicles, all hopelessly looking for an opportunity to move into the passing lane. The gaps in traffic are rare even at 6 AM, the passing lane a risky gamble, the aggressiveness of drivers in the passing lane creating havoc as they whiz along at 90 mph. I live out in the far western suburbs of Chicago, so in a few miles most of the cars heading into the city will be slowed to a snail’s pace. It’s difficult to summon any amount of sympathy for the ruthless hellions in the passing lane, though. No one should be in that much of a hurry. They are going to work, after all. Why hurry to work?

In a few short miles, I head south on the 355 tollway, where the traffic is just as dense, but there is usually a respite after I-55. Going south is heading away from the city, so I don’t have as much company. I-55 is another east-west vein, so much of the traffic exits from 355 onto the ominous Lego like ramps that snake off and to the tollway. When I first started driving the tollway, those ramps scared the living daylights out of me. Now they are mundane.

What almost never fails to happen is getting stuck in the passing lane behind someone driving ten miles under the speed limit. I curse out loud when that happens, immediately conscious of my sin due to the Christian music I tend to favor during my commute. The music is my attempt to keep my focus calm and in the right place. Commuting the tollway is a daunting challenge even to someone who tries to keep a Christlike attitude. I fail enough as it is, and I am constantly thankful for God’s grace and forgiveness as I curse my fellow man or woman when behind the wheel of my Subaru.

My commute is 37 miles one way. I am thankful for the pandemic for one reason only — I am only required to make the trip to the office one day a week. There is a rumor that will change soon. Hopefully, it’s only a rumor, but even when my company lifts the one day a week in the office rule, I still will only have to come to the office 50 percent of the time. Commuting the tollways can be expensive, as it is $6 in tolls a day on top of gas and car maintenance. The month of November has cost more, as I experienced one of the hazards of tollway use — my IPass transponder pooped out, something I didn’t know until I noticed my toll account balance was extremely low. Tolls suddenly were being charged at twice the normal rate. Yikes. Until I get a chance to mail my transponder back to the tollway authority for an exchange, either I pay the double rate or I don’t use the tollway. Not using the tollway means about another 90 minutes of total commute time. Yuck!

Four years to retirement.